Posted inArts & Culture

Ursula Oppens

URSULA OPPENS When pianist Ursula Oppens moved here from New York to join the Northwestern University music faculty five years ago, composers all over town must have crossed their fingers. When Oppens premieres a piece, she sets the standard for all future interpreters, and many composers claim she elucidates their intentions better than they can […]

Posted inArts & Culture

Asylum Street Spankers

ASYLUM STREET SPANKERS The liner notes to the latest CD from Austin’s Asylum Street Spankers, Spanker Madness (Spanks-a-Lot), list a whip, a backhoe, and “various pieces of metal piled in the back of Leroy’s ’67 Ford F100 parked in the studio driveway” among the instruments. And the music, which invokes and tweaks vaudeville, country and […]

Posted inMusic

Spot Check

BLACK EYED PEAS 5/25, HOUSE OF BLUES This LA trio, which combines the flower-child vibe of De La Soul with the syncretic futurism of the Roots, is fast becoming the ideal hip-hop group for people who don’t like hip-hop very much. The group’s aptly titled second album, Bridging the Gap (Interscope), is packed with high-profile […]

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Dave Holland Quintet

DAVE HOLLAND QUINTET With his current quintet, founded in the mid-90s, bassist Dave Holland has achieved something extraordinary by most people’s standards–but not by his own. As he did with his 80s quintet, he’s folded the signal elements of a decade’s music into a repertoire simultaneously representative of its era and intensely personal. Ripples of […]

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Mogwai, Bardo Pond

MOGWAI, BARDO POND Not much happens on Mogwai’s ironically titled third album, Rock Action (Matador), but the beauty and precision with which these Glaswegians do nothing is breathtaking. The quintet has progressed yet farther from the Slint imitation of its debut, augmenting its meticulously controlled and cinematically structured guitar sounds with some well-placed strings and […]

Posted inNews & Politics

Bike Hazzards Bill Deflated

Bicyclists’ rights advocates felt optimistic in April when the Illinois senate passed the Bicycle Safety Restoration Act by a vote of 54 to 0. But last week the measure died in the Illinois house’s judiciary committee, which deadlocked on the bill and prevented it from moving forward. Illinois bicyclists haven’t had liability protection since 1998, […]

Posted inArts & Culture

U.S. Maple

U.S. MAPLE Though they are relatively young men, when I listen to their fourth and latest full-length, Acre Thrills (Drag City), U.S. Maple sound rather old. More specifically, they sound crusty, like the character in front of the convenience store: a drooler, a mutterer, and a pee-on-selfer who, when actually engaged in argument, spits out […]

Posted inMusic

All Natural, Molemen

I’m an advocate of recycling, but when it comes to hip-hop beats the blue-bag routine gets old fast–I’m particularly tired of hearing loops cribbed from the Jameses (namely James Brown and Rick James). Chicago’s new wave of hip-hop crews is exciting in part because its best exponents don’t retread the same worn samples but dig […]

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Chicago Comedy Festival

THURSDAY, MAY 31 7 Murderer’s Row showcase at Black Orchid, Piper’s Alley, 230 W. North, hosted by Tim Cavanaugh, with Kathleen Madigan, Bil Dwyer, Rene Hicks, Larry Reeb, Brett Leake, Carl LaBove and Andy Kindler. 7:30 Fresh Mugs “B” showcase at Coyle’s Tippling House hosted by Stephen Kruiser. Neil Hamburger Extravaganza at Lincoln Restaurant hosted […]

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Brantfest!

Brantfest!, Zeppo Theater Company, at the Athenaeum Theatre. Since the 1993 debut of Lovely Letters, Chicago playwright George Brant has forged a tidy little reputation for comedy. He began with parodies of popular entertainments but in 1997 turned to biographies and adaptations of literary classics, most of them clocking in at a comfortable 90 minutes […]

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The Moon’s the Madonna

THE MOON’S THE MADONNA, Circle Theatre. First created and performed in 1989 by students at the Thomas Sumpter School in Scunthorpe, England, The Moon’s the Madonna is very much the sort of well-meaning but uneven play you’d expect from a committee of adolescents working under the tutelage of a drama teacher, in this case Richard […]

Posted inNews & Politics

City File

Fat is where you find it. An article by Anjali Jain of the University of Chicago and others in the May issue of Pediatrics advises doctors that low-income black and white mothers in three focus groups they ran “did not define overweight or obese in their children according to how height and weight measurements were […]

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Brick and Six Degrees

Brick and Six Degrees, at ComedySportz. Right before taking my seat at Brick’s show I realized I’d lost my wallet. Yet the five-person ensemble was so funny I happily forgot this minor crisis for an hour. Directed by Kevin Rich, Brick revisits familiar comic territory but does so dynamically. Two women in a powder room […]